Ask any person who knows me at all and, for the most part, they will say I am tad strange but overall upbeat. With that said, this time around I am going to veer off course from fishing or the good old days because of observations I have made about my Lowcountry that concern me greatly.
Before I dive in, I want you all to know that I am not an anti-development hot head. Having lived here for just about all my life, many years ago I accepted the fact that growth was inevitable.
If you reread that last sentence the key word is “inevitable.” If I had to add anything to that word it would be “inevitable if, and only if it is done right.”
Since most of you were not around in those early days when Charles Fraser envisioned Sea Pines on Hilton Head Island, I will tell you that nature took precedence over every aspect of his radically new (at the time) concept of development.
Homes were built around the existing flora and fauna in any given location. Wooden signs were required, no billboards were allowed (and still aren’t), and everything down to the color of mailboxes and homes had to be approved so that all might blend into nature and not overshadow it.
Sea Pines was the first of its kind; Fraser’s developmental concept was adopted all over the country and for that matter, in countries worldwide.
What took me down this path where I simply couldn’t keep my observations to myself? Several days ago I drove over to Hilton Head to take care of a couple of things and then, returning to Bluffton, I headed to Savannah for yet more things on my “to do” list. That drive took my breath away.
It took me more than 30 minutes just to get onto the island as traffic was bumper to bumper and moving at a snail’s pace. Nothing unusual there, right?
As I sat there in that line of cars I tried to figure out why the traffic has gotten to this point. Tourists have been coming to the island for a long time, but in a relatively short period of time driving on the island has gotten to be at times unbearable. What changed?
Then it hit me. Most of the developments on the island were made up of permanent residents or second home owners that wanted a summer getaway. It wasn’t until these developments allowed an unchecked number of home rentals within their confines that the traffic situation has become almost intolerable. It shocks me that permanent residents have not rallied to protect a lifestyle that they paid dearly for.
Heading through Bluffton toward Savannah, the number of “land for sale” signs I saw was staggering. One in particular along Hwy. 46, for a 100-plus acre parcel, zoned commercial, really shook me.
Why doesn’t the town start buying up some of these properties for non-development, much like Hilton Head did when Tom Peeples was mayor? It appears to me that building permits are being handed out almost like the tons of candy thrown out from participants in the annual Bluffton Christmas Parade. It scares me.
Even though I don’t live in the Town of Bluffton, but rather in Beaufort County, our infrastructure is not keeping up this unbridled growth.
One aspect in particular is inexcusable: Not replacing all the septic tanks along the May River with a sewer system.
The way I see it, if a sewer system was put in and made affordable, the utility company would make out like a bandit in the long run. Built in 1945, my property has Lord knows how many old drain fields that are no longer used. If indeed we love the May River so much, then we had better hop to it and get a modern sewer system in place.
As I said in the beginning, growth here is inevitable but we only have one shot at doing it right. History is one of best teachers, so I encourage all newcomers to read about Charles Fraser’s vision of responsible development. We need to slow it down and use his vision as a guide.
I love the Lowcountry through and through, and for me to question its future should give pause to any that read this. I just had to get it off my chest.
Collins Doughtie, a 60-year resident of the Lowcountry, is a sportsman, graphic artist, and lover of nature. firstname.lastname@example.org